2018 Raiders Draft Prospect Profile
Name: Leighton Vander Esch
School: Boise State
Weight: 240 pounds
When Vander Esch strikes the ballcarrier, several movements converge into one play. First, he will square up and deliver a forceful shot while wrapping and driving through. Granted, Vander Esch would have generated for fumble with a highlight reel approach. However, he executes stop with a technical mentality
This is one of the areas of needed improvement. As Vander Esch faces off with blockers, they will occasionally force him away from the action. This appears more of a timing issue than red flag. At 240 pounds on a 6’4 frame, Vander Esch will fill out even more during his pro career.
For a middle linebacker, Vander Esch brings adequate acceleration to the field. More importantly, his decisiveness actually increases his speed. For instance, when Vander Esch diagnoses a running play through a particular gap, he shoots it and plugs immediately. As a result, the running back cannot gain a full head of steam and will grab little to no gain.
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Unlike many inside ‘backers, Vander Esch shuffles to make a better tackle. When he does, he looks fluid. In addition, in deeper coverage, he will suddenly flip the hips and keep up with the back or tight end.
In his film, Vander Esch looks like he is everywhere. From blowing up screen or knifing in to stop a draw, his ability to read an offense stands out. Instead of following the quarterback’s eyes, Vander Esch observes as a whole, anticipating routes and play selection.
In his drops, Vander Esch can work away from the line effectively, possessing the agility to stay with his responsibilities.
Although the Raiders may want to bring NaVorro Bowman back, Vander Esch can do things the veteran cannot. Never strong in coverage, Bowman will trail too far behind targets. In return, the targets grab too much space and will run to daylight unbothered. Under Paul Guenther, sound linebacker play is a necessity. Vander Esch will not leave the field in any situation. In that case, his timing, recognition, technique and ability to finish could make him a valued pick on Day 2, if he lasts that long.
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